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This Hour: Latest Massachusetts news, sports, business and entertainment

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MISSING BOY-MASSACHUSETTS

Defense experts allowed to examine boy's body

FITCHBURG, Mass. (AP) - The funeral of a 5-year-old Massachusetts boy found dead last week after being missing for months is being delayed so pathologists for the defense can examine the body.

A judge Wednesday gave the defense until Monday to complete an examination of the body of Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg.

Jeremiah, whose family was being monitored by state child welfare officials, had not been seen since September but was not reported missing until December. His body was found near Interstate 190 in Sterling last Friday. His mother and her boyfriend are facing charges in connection with his disappearance, but not his death.

The body is in the custody of the state medical examiner pending an autopsy.

Jeremiah's father says he's not happy with the judge's decision, but has no choice but to comply.

SHOOTING-TEEN SUSPECT

15-year-old boy faces murder charge in Lynn

LYNN, Mass. (AP) - A 15-year-old boy has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in a fatal shooting during a botched robbery in Lynn.

The Essex district attorney's office said Kevin Omar Sanchez of Lynn was arraigned Thursday in Lynn District Court. Sanchez is charged as an adult in the April 16 death of 18-year-old Amoy Blake. Sanchez is held without bail.

Prosecutor Kate MacDougall said at the hearing that Sanchez and a 17-year-old co-defendant were with Blake when Blake allegedly held a gun to a man's head during an attempted robbery. She said the robbery target, a 20-year-old Lynn man, then shot Blake with a gun he was licensed to carry, and called 911. He isn't charged.

Prosecutors said since Blake died while allegedly committing a felony, other participants in that felony can be criminally liable for his death.

ANTI-BULLYING BILL

Massachusetts governor signs anti-bullying bill

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a bill designed to build on the state's 2010 anti-bullying law by strengthening protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and students with disabilities.

Patrick called the new law "an important step toward ensuring that all young people are able to learn and thrive" in schools.

Patrick signed the bill during a Statehouse ceremony Thursday. The law also creates new reporting measures for schools and recognizes certain populations as more vulnerable to bullying,

The 2010 law was designed to crack down on bullying and cyberbullying and require schools to establish anti-bullying programs.

The new law creates a data collection and reporting mechanism designed to help educators, administrators and legislators identify trends and respond to them.

Schools will also be required to report bullying data annually to education officials.

MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Marijuana rally at Statehouse Thursday

BOSTON (AP) - The state department charged with vetting companies that want to win a medical marijuana dispensary license says the process is ongoing, but offered no timeline for when it might be completed.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health spokesman David Kibbe says the agency awarded 20 provisional licenses at the end of January, but is still in the process of verifying the applications.

He says the department is trying to strike the "appropriate balance" between patient access and public safety.

Medical marijuana advocates are rallying at the Statehouse on Thursday to call for more progress in the licensing process, which has been the subject of scrutiny after a number of politically-connected companies were awarded the provisional permits. The state had hoped the first of the dispensaries would open by this summer.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR-FISHER

Trial set for GOP hopeful's lawsuit against party

BOSTON (AP) - It could be some time before we know if there will be a contested Republican primary for governor in Massachusetts.

A Superior Court judge has set June 18 as the date for a trial on Mark Fisher's lawsuit against the state party. Fisher, a tea party member, claims he received more than 15 percent of the vote of delegates at the GOP convention last month, earning him a spot on the primary ballot.

Party officials say Fisher received only 14.8 percent of the vote, after blank ballots were added to the tally.

Judge Douglas Wilkins said in a court filing that the trial will determine whether Fisher should be allowed on the primary ballot along with Charlie Baker, the 2010 Republican nominee, who received 82 percent of the convention vote.

CRIME FAMILY FEUD

Feds seek long sentence for reputed mob associate

BOSTON (AP) - Federal prosecutors say a reputed New England Mafia associate who lived as a cattle rancher in Idaho under an alias for more than a decade before he was caught and convicted of several crimes should spend 40 years in prison.

The Boston Globe reports that prosecutors said in their sentencing recommendation that 45-year-old Enrico Ponzo is a "vicious, violent, cold-blooded criminal" who warrants a harsh sentence.

Ponzo, representing himself, requested a sentence of 15 years or less. He said he lived a "hardworking, selfless life in Idaho from 2000 through 2011 as a stay-at-home dad, cattle rancher, and elected community volunteer."

Ponzo was convicted in November of several crimes, including the attempted murder in 1989 of former Mafia boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR-MCCORMICK

Candidate for governor McCormick taps running mate

BOSTON (AP) - Independent candidate for governor Jeff McCormick has named Tracy Post, a member of the Board of Selectmen in Yarmouth, to be his running mate.

The announcement was made Thursday on Cape Cod.

McCormick and Post were also planning a stop in Boston later in the morning.

Post formerly headed of the Yarmouth Planning Board and is a longtime volunteer in town. She works as office manager for Cape Cod Aggregates Corp. in Barnstable.

McCormick, a Boston venture capitalist, officially entered the governor's race in February. He has until July 29 to submit the signatures of at least 10,000 registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Five Democrats, two Republicans and two other independent candidates are also vying to succeed Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who is not seeking re-election.

BICYCLIST KILLED

Barnstable woman convicted in bicyclist's death

(Information in the following story is from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodonline.com )

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) - A Barnstable woman charged with driving from the scene after striking a bicyclist who later died has been convicted of a lesser charge than the one she originally faced.

Angelica Barroso was found guilty by a judge Wednesday of leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury.

The Cape Cod Times reports she had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing death, but the judge determined that because the cyclist was struck by a second vehicle "harm resulting in death was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

Police say the 24-year-old Barroso struck 20-year-old Sheila Moreta as she cycled home at 2 a.m. on June 14, 2012 from her job at a restaurant. Moreta landed in the street and was struck by a second vehicle.

RABBIT HEADS-MAILBOXES

Rabbit heads left in Westfield sisters' mailboxes

(Information in the following story is from: The Westfield (Mass.) News, http://thewestfieldnews.com )

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Westfield police are investigating after severed rabbit heads were found in two mailboxes in town this week.

The Westfield News reports that a man called police on Monday evening to report that a rabbit's head had been left in mother's mailbox.

The woman said a rabbit's head had also been left in her sister's mailbox about four blocks away.

The heads were removed and disposed of.

Police say a hunter who saw the heads said they appeared to be from wild rabbits, not domesticated rabbits.

Police say no one in the neighborhood reported seeing anything suspicious and are seeking the public's help.

ANIMAL ABUSE

Bill would increase penalties for animal cruelty

BOSTON (AP) - Animal rights activists and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are calling for passage of a bill that would increase fines and toughen prison sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty.

The so-called PAWS act would also create a statewide registry of people who have been convicted of animal abuse and make that list available to animal shelters, pet stores and breeders. The Legislature's Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill Thursday.

Senate Republican leader Bruce Tarr filed the measure following last year's highly-publicized case involving a year-old pit bull, later nicknamed "Puppy Doe," who was euthanized after being found beaten and tortured in Quincy.

Tarr says it's time to take a serious and comprehensive look at the state's animal protection laws, some of which haven't been updated in more than a century.

HOSPITAL CLOSING

Deal to reopen North Adams emergency room reached

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - The emergency room at the recently closed North Adams Regional Hospital could re-open within a month under an agreement reached in court.

A bankruptcy trustee announced in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield on Thursday that Berkshire Health Systems, the parent of Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, reached a tentative deal to buy the North Adams hospital for an undisclosed sum.

The first step is a 90-day occupancy and use agreement that would allow BMC to open an emergency center in North Adams as soon as May 19, until the purchase agreement is finalized.

North Adams Regional closed on a few days' notice March 28, citing years of financial struggles.

That left the closest emergency rooms for residents of northern Berkshire County 30 to 40 minutes away in Pittsfield or Bennington, Vt.

POSTAL WORKER PROTEST

Postal workers union protest Staples program

NEW YORK (AP) - Postal workers are protesting the opening of postal counters in Staples stores that are staffed with retail employees.

Thursday's protests are planned at 50 locations in 27 states, including rallies in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

In Washington, more than 200 people gathered at a Staples, drumming on buckets and holding signs that read: "Stop Staples. The US Mail is Not for Sale."

Last year, Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Inc. began offering postal services under a pilot program that now includes some 80 stores. The American Postal Workers Union objects, because they say well-paid union workers have been replaced by low-wage nonunion workers.

The union says that could lead to layoffs and post office closings.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe says the program is a response to customer demands for convenience.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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